After listening to a rousing performance by the Aberhonddu and District Male Choir, the Minister said: “With two Geoparks in such a small country – Fforest Fawr in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and GeoMôn in the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – Wales is punching well above its weight. Their membership of the European Geoparks Network has been vitally important in helping them promote sustainable tourism, best practice and stimulate new ideas.
“Difficult economic times don’t mean that we should forget about our values, the values of our special landscapes and forget about pursuing new ways of protecting these landscapes and their benefits to society and sustainable tourism. It’s a pleasure to welcome so many people from Europe and across the UK to Wales who continue to make such a valuable contribution towards the protection and promotion of these spectacular areas which provide real benefits to our communities.”
More than 80 visiting delegates from 42 European Geoparks will participate in the conference, joined by representatives from the Fforest Fawr Geopark and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority. The event, organised by the European Geoparks Network, will examine ways in which European Geoparks can work together to further the functioning and growth of the Network in challenging economic times. It will also highlight the importance of communities and the diversity of Geoparks across Europe and their sometimes unique approaches to achieving sustainable economic development.
Professor Nikolaos Zouros, Co-ordinator of the European Geoparks Network said: “This first meeting of the European Geoparks Network in Wales give to the participating delegates the opportunity not only to explore the natural beauty, geological heritage and warm hospitality of this wonderful country but also to discuss how Geoparks can contribute to the sustainable development of their territories.
“Established in 2000, the European Geoparks Network (EGN) aims to protect geodiversity, to promote geological heritage to the general public, as well as to support sustainable economic development of geopark territories. The network has been expanded to include, 42 territories across 17 European countries across Europe that share these aims and now work together in an active and dynamic way in order to promote themselves as ideal destinations for geotourism and educational activities.”
Dr Tony Ramsay, Scientific Director of Fforest Fawr Geopark said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for delegates from all over Europe to get together with members of the communities in the Fforest Fawr Geopark and to experience the wonderful Welsh hospitality. The European Geoparks Network is always looking for innovative ways to further develop sustainable growth in areas that are often economically challenged.”
Cllr Eric Saxon, Chairman for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said: “We are delighted to host the European Geoparks Network Conference in Brecon this week. We hope our delegates will find new ways to explore innovative projects and ideas happening in other Geoparks and look at the ways in which communities and partner organisations interact and support thriving rural economies in our respective Geoparks. This conference is an opportunity for all of us to make those important connections.”
The conference, which takes place the Castle Hotel, Brecon, will meet over three days and conclude with site visits through the Fforest Fawr Geopark taking in important geological locations at Pontneddfechan, the Waterfalls Centre, Dinas Rock, Brynaman, Carreg Cennen Castle and the Black Mountain Centre.
The conference has been kindly supported by Powys County Council, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Carmarthenshire County Council, The Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Wales, Brecon Carreg Water, Bannau Brycheiniog Sustainable Development Fund, Bannau Brycheiniog Tourism, Bannau Brycheiniog Park Society, Breconshire Brewery, British Geological Survey, Penderyn Whisky, The Sleeping Giant Foundation, Tourism Partnership Mid-Wales and the Aberhonddu and District Male Choir.
The National Park Authority would also like to thank the hotels of Brecon including the Castle Hotel, the Wellington, The Beacons Guesthouse and the George Hotel and also Carreg Cennen Castle in Llandeilo.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Geoparks are recognised landscapes of geological importance that are supported and brought to life by the people that live within them.
In 2005, Fforest Fawr Geopark – an area that covers 300 square miles of the National Park – became the first area in Wales to be officially recognised as a European Geopark and the first National Park in the UK to have a Geopark within its boundary. Located mainly within the western area of the National Park, Fforest Fawr stretches from Carreg Cennen Castle in the west to Pen y Fan, the Park’s highest mountain in the east. The wild mountains and hidden valleys of Fforest Fawr Geopark are the result of 480 million years of earth history – ancient seas, mountain building and sea level and climate change scattered across a landscape that was shaped by the last Ice Age.